With international multilateral negotiations unsurprisingly follows an undercurrent of concern over lack of progress; and climate change negotiations are no different. This sense of insecurity has loomed over the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process for several years, calling into question whether these negotiations are able to deliver meaningful results. A recent report published by the Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research on Trade Regulation (NCCR) offers a solution to this pressing question: more active private sector engagement. According to the NCCR, “without [the private sector’s] active contribution, both intellectual and financial, the achievement of the goals of the UNFCCC process will remain a pipedream”.
Delphi previously examined the growing role of the private sector in climate change negotiations in our May issue. At that time we focused on the need for more active private sector engagement to address implementation gaps in government-oriented sustainable development goals. Similarly, the NCCR’s more recent paper, aptly titled The UNFCCC at a Crossroads, takes a strong stance stressing that business stakeholders’ active contribution is a necessary condition for significant progress on multilateral climate change negotiations.
According to the report, private sector participants typically play the roles of passive observers and decision takers within these negotiations as opposed to active advisors. Consequently their input is very limited. If negotiators do not seek out and incorporate new input in a meaningful manner the process itself may fall victim to ossification, whereby the system becomes rigid or inflexible and fails to learn and grow.
However, with greater involvement follows additional challenges for the business and negotiating communities. For example, the process may become stalled due to consensus building hurdles or intentionally obstructive entities. There would also be additional budgetary and administrative implications.
Despite these considerations, business involvement is critical from a policy perspective. Embedding private sector intelligence ensures that policy instruments remain economically reasonable and do not distort competition.
According to the NCCR well-designed regulations can enhance participation by ensuring: a high level of transparency, where parties are provided open access to relevant information; non-discriminatory treatment; and balanced input with respect to the size of companies, sectors and geographic location. Notwithstanding these findings, the expertise of the private sector has been critically underutilized in multilateral climate regimes. While the details of such an approach by the UNFCCC are yet to be discussed, the private sector remains one of the most logical partners for financing and innovation for climate action necessary to progress in the future.
By Kaitlin Szacki, [email protected]